They saw something, but they didn't say anything, and for that, five Half Hollow Hills High School East students have been suspended by the school district.
The disciplinary action Thursday followed a Monday after-school fight captured by one student on a cell phone camera and posted by another on YouTube. School officials already had suspended the two brawling students for five days. The onlooker who recorded the fight and the student who posted it each received a one-day suspension.
YouTube removed the video yesterday afternoon. It was posted on Monday.
Half Hollow Hills spokeswoman Chris Geed said district officials learned about the video via an e-mail Tuesday.
"I don't want to say this happens every day at every school in America. But it happens frequently," Geed said. "But with the proliferation of social websites, it is sad but true that nowadays, young people think it is fun to post these things."
She added that "sensationalizing violence like this is inappropriate and students need to understand that."
Using footage from surveillance cameras, school officials identified the five bystanders who watched the fight outside a school building and could be heard commenting on it during the video. According to the district, students are required to notify a school official or teacher of inappropriate action, language or conduct, particularly fights.
The spectators violated a code of conduct every student is required to sign at the start of the school year that details appropriate and inappropriate behavior, district officials said.
"We feel strongly that anyone witnessing an event that could potentially harm another needs to report that event. We feel that those who do not take action to protect others share some culpability for the occurrence and therefore need to be held accountable," Sheldon Karnilow, superintendent of the Half Hollow Hills school district, said in a statement.
Those five students have been suspended for a day and will return to the school in Dix Hills next week, school officials said.
The 1-minute, 42-second video shows two teens - one in a white shirt and another in a blue shirt - alternately throwing punches and circling each other. The fight took place after the 2 p.m. dismissal, officials said.
Amol Sinha, director of the Suffolk County chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said the "school should use this situation as a teachable moment to talk about conflict resolution and solving disagreements in a respectful manner rather than punishing those who were not directly involved in the fight."
Cory Bierman, 15, said she thought "friends of the students should have tried to stop it, but most kids would be reluctant to get involved."
With Patrick Whittle and Deborah S. Morris